New Animal Shelter is $1.4 million referendum question

Question 4 on the Nov. 6 ballot will ask voters to approve bonding $1.4 million for a new Shelton animal shelter, to be constructed near the current 20 Riverdale Avenue shelter.

The proposal to replace the outdated and overcrowded shelter comes after about six years of work by the Shelton Animal Shelter Building Committee. The bipartisan, volunteer committee, working with Bismark Construction, has submitted a plan it says is cost-effective and will provide a healthy environment for education and adoption. The project was supported by the Board of Aldermen.

“Some people think of an animal shelter as the land of broken toys,” Gerry Craig, chair of the shelter building committee. “But there are fantastic family pets there.”

However, the current shelter is the land of several other broken things, according to state inspectors who have failed it during numerous inspections for problems, including structural issues.

“Sheryl Taylor [animal control officer] has done a tremendous job there trying to keep the Band-Aids, string and tape holding that place together,” Craig said.

The new proposed facility would be 6,000 square feet, about five times the size of the current 1,500-square-foot shelter. It would be built near the corner of Brewster Lane and Riverdale Avenue, on a piece of city-owned property.

The Friends of the Shelton Animal Shelter have also voiced support for the project, asking voters to approve it.

“The current shelter is outdated, beyond repair, and is not in compliance with state regulations,” Friends President Cathy Fracker said. “The new shelter will give Shelton’s homeless animals a healthy environment, a chance to find a new, loving home, a much-needed cat room, and the ability to encourage and teach responsible pet ownership throughout the community.”

The design

The entrance of the shelter would be set back on Brewster Lane and the building is designed to look like to a home. Minimizing the impact on nearby homes was a big part of planning, Craig said.

“We kept the profile low so neighbors won’t be looking out at the building,” Craig said. The shelter would be fenced in and landscaped.

The new shelter would have 30 enclosed kennels, including four quarantine areas, as required by state regulations. There would also be a 162-square-foot cat room. The current shelter doesn’t take in cats.

The stainless steel kennels would be built to last longer than chain link or other materials that don’t have a long life, Craig said. Dogs would also have windows, to provide visual distraction, preventing “kennel rage.”

One of the features Craig is most excited about is a central sanitary washer that would allow shelter employees to hose down the facility in order to keep it sanitary. The kennels would have “trench drains” going directly out to the sewer. The trench drains are a feature the committee saw at the new Stratford animal shelter and wanted to include in the Shelton design.

The front area of shelter would include the cat room, grooming room, a locker room with shower for employees, a conference room, and an adoption room.

“A lot of people, like myself, don’t want to do the ‘perp walk’ because you just end up feeling terrible not being able to take all the dogs home,” Craig said. “We want to set up an adoption room like a living room; people can look at our inventory and choose what dog they would like to meet.”

The conference room would be used for education, which was an important goal for the committee, according to Craig.

“We want to have a place to teach school kids and groups about overpopulation, responsible pet ownership and the importance of spaying and neutering,” Craig said.

The cost

The shelter could have cost more than $3 million, if not for help from the city’s Public Works Department and Director Paul DiMauro.

The city has offered to clear the land, help with compaction and put in utilities like sewer lines, water lines and electric, Craig said. The assistance of the Public Works Department brought the cost down by about $100 a square foot. Nearby Stratford spent about $3.5 million on its new shelter.

“We have done everything we can to keep the cost down,” Craig said.

If voters approve the referendum question, construction could tentatively start by March.

“It’s much needed in this city of ours,” Craig said of the project. “It will take the city into the future with a building that will last.”

Fracker of the Friends of the Shelton Animal Shelter echoed a similar sentiment.

“We must speak for the animals who cannot speak for themselves,” Fracker said. “Help our furry friends.”

The residents who served on the Shelton Animal Shelter Building Committee include Craig, Steven Martino, A.J. Grasso, Linda Hooper, Roberta Reynolds, Tony Minopoli, and Irene McCoy. Gail Craig served as recording clerk.